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Posts Tagged ‘Akinori Iwamura’

All of Dice-K’s pitches were off.  We can ask ourselves, was it the World Baseball Classic, was it not the World Baseball Classic? Only time will tell.  But one thing’s for sure: last season he was perpetually on.  It’s a commonly known fact that a player’s first year in Boston is not necessarily his best, and last year Dice-K resolved many of the issues he had in 2007.  The last thing we need now is for new issues to crop up and give him trouble.  Yesterday it was the long ball that did him in; four runs on nine hits, three of them homers, in just over five innings pitched.  Joyce, Longoria, and Riggans.  Four runs on three mistakes.  Dice-K will take the loss.

The bullpen did okay yesterday.  Delcarmen, Ramirez, and Masterson all did fine; all still have ERAs of 0.00.  Hideki Okajima is another story.  He posted another shaky outing.  He got out of it, but not before allowing a hit and two walks.  Something’s up, and it’s not just his ERA.  I know, I know, it’s only the second game, but really? Is he ever coming around? Because if he isn’t, I’d like to know sooner rather than later.

Offense.  There’s a bit of an interesting story.  This game had walk-off home run written all over it.  After Papi walked, that responsibility fell to Youkilis who, sadly, did not deliver.  He did, however, have a very good day at the plate; three for four with a walk and two runs.  The only multi-hit performance in the lineup.  An RBI for Bay, coming on a triple in the sixth inning.  You don’t see triples too often, especially not “true triples,” the ones you don’t have to leg out.  He got to third easily.  Too bad we stranded him.  Also an RBI for Lowell, who robbed Iwamura of extra bases in the eighth by making a spectacular catch.  He dove to his left and picked the ball out of thin air.  That was a play he would never have been able to make before the surgery, and with every game he’s becoming more and more comfortable in the field.  Speaking of spectacular catches, in the ninth Jacoby Ellsbury kept us in the game by hauling in a well-hit ball by Gabe Kapler with the bases loaded.  If it falls it’s three runs for sure.  And sometimes a play like that is worth the RBIs Ellsbury could’ve or should’ve batted in himself.  And who comes to the plate in the ninth but Jason Varitek, who proceeds to hit a long ball of his own to bring us within one! Two home runs for the captain, and it’s only our first series.  I’m telling you, comeback year.  But, alas, at the end of the day we lost, 4-3, dropping our opening series for the first time since 1988.

But I did notice a crack in the Rays’ pitching staff: Troy Percival.  He pitched the ninth and gave up the homer to Tek and a walk to Papi.  If Longoria hadn’t taken a base hit away from Pedroia, we probably would’ve won.  So this wasn’t exactly his best outing.  Reports have it that, since last year, his endurance is down, and it’s a big question for the Rays whether he’ll be able to fill the closer’s role, or any role, effectively for an entire season.  And when he starts to fall, we’ll be ready.

It’ll be Wakefield at Weaver in the late start tonight, something I’m not looking forward to if we continue to play like we did in our last two games.  On the bright side, this is one of only two road trips to the West Coast this year, so we’ll be done with those by May.

In other news, the Bruins edged the Habs in overtime, 5-4.  Only the Sabres and Islanders left.

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Every once in a while, playing extra innings is good.  It reminds you why you fight so hard during the average nine-inning contest, and it puts the bullpen to work, so everyone gets some work in and you see what you’re working with.  And last night’s game was a great game for us.  It wasn’t like some ridiculous pitcher’s mistake forced us into extras and then we lost.  We went into extras for all the right reasons, and that’s good for the team every once in a while.  It strengthens the resolve to complete the mission.  As for the loss part, as soon as Mike Timlin stepped on the mound we all knew it was coming.  Why Tito didn’t just go with Chris Smith from the get-go instead of having him warm in the ‘pen behind Timlin is something I’ll never know.

A long game means a lot to talk about.  Let’s start with Beckett, who’s so back it’s not even funny.  I’m serious.  It’s gotten back to that point where you watch the game, you see that No. 19,  and you know you’re in good hands and you can lock it up as a win.  I can say that despite last night because even though we lost last night he did his job, and he did it well.  He’s been on a short leash lately with his pitch count because of his stint on the DL, which I think is smart, but even pitching six innings, which is a bit of a short outing for Beckett, he pitched his usual.  One run on six hits, walking two and fanning seven.  He got off to a great start, using five pitches in a one-two-three first inning, and he didn’t even give up his first walk until the fifth.

I can safely say that, just as I was never more disappointed in Pap than on Tuesday night, I’ve never been more proud of the bullpen than I was last night.  Last night’s relief was nothing short of spectacular.  Every reliever, with the exception of Mike Timlin who lost it a long time ago, brought his A-game.  Okajima pitched a perfect inning, and it’s safe to say he’s back.  Masterson pitched two innings and got himself out of a real situation, one out with bases loaded, and he got the two outs he needed, no problem.  It was just awesome.  Delcarmen pitched two perfect innings, and it was nice to see him do that, given the consistency problems that he had in the first half of the season and part of the second.  And Lopez; what to say about Lopez? He’s been our greatest this year.  He’s had everything: consistency, confusing delivery, good command, and the ability to continually throw strikes.  And his 2.1 innings were perfect.  Enter Mike Timlin, who gave up a three-run shot to Carlos Pena in the top of the fourteenth.  He picked up the loss.  What a surprise.  And as it turned out a Rays fan caught the ball.  How about that? A Rays fan in Fenway Park.  Now I’ve seen it all.

Pedroia batted in our first run in the third to tie the game, and Youkilis batted in our second in the bottom of the fourteenth.  We lost, 2-4, but we didn’t go down easily.  In the late innings we had our chances to score, which unfortunately we couldn’t convert, so it wasn’t only Timlin’s fault.  And even in our half of the fourteenth inning we had the bases loaded and we were ready to strike, but as they say the rest is history.  Even with all that playing time, only two members of the lineup had multi-hit games: Pedroia went two for four with a walk, and Lowrie went two for five with a walk.  Pedroia’s like nitro-glycerin; if you’re the opposition, you don’t want to be around when that kind of power is unleashed.  Watching him uncork that swing of his is beautiful baseball.  And he can do some running, too; in the third, Ortiz popped foul but Pedroia already went from second to the plate, so he just cut across the grass to get back to second.  Other highlights include Ellsbury’s spectacular diving catch in center field, and this was it, I mean I saw that ball and thought there was no play.  The kid’s a miracle worker out there.  And I think it should be mentioned that he was blatantly safe at first in the ninth inning.  If the umpires made the right call, the bases would’ve been loaded, and there probably would’ve been a walk off.  Just saying.  Ortiz actually hit a sac bunt in the twelfth inning for the first time since April 14, 2001; I kid you not.  Bay was held hitless, snapping a five-game hitting streak and a three-game home run streak.  And as for Lowell, he was the victim of what I perceived as blatant unfairness.  Lowell pops foul down the third base line, Dan Johnson goes into the slide to catch it, a fan reaches over and catches it instead, and the umpires call fan interference.  As if Johnson would’ve been able to make that play; Lowell clearly was not out.  Varitek was successful in a hit-and-run, and I loved watching that because I remember a few weeks ago when if you put Tek in a hit-and-run the runner would be out.  Cash came in in the later innings and showed off his arm; he gunned down Bartlett at second when Iwamura failed to make contact on his own hit-and-run.  Finally, Chris Carter came through with a pinch-hit single.  He’s now three for four in the majors, with all three of those hits coming against Tampa Bay.

In other news, Raymond Bourke was in the crowd last night, the Angels clinched the AL West last night (we all knew that was coming, too), and Pap showed a lot of maturity during this series.  After the Crisp-Bartlett brawl, he dished out a lot of talk of unfinished business, but he handled himself, which I think was wise because we need him to be available, not suspended, this time of year.

So, as for the series of the whole, we weren’t swept which is good, we’re only 2.5 games out which is good, and we have the day off today which is great.  And Jerry Remy made a good point: Tuesday’s loss was a bigger win for the Rays than it was a loss for us.  We can bounce back from that and from this series.  Look at our season; we’ve been doing nothing but.  The injuries, the trades, it’s all required a superhuman amount of resilience, but we’ve been able to weather it and actually be the better for it.  Toronto lost last night to the White Sox which takes some of the wind out of their sails, because up until that point they’d been enjoying a September surge.  Their pitching is largely responsible for that surge so we’ll have to hit all our spots when we start things off with them tomorrow.  Even though I would’ve loved nothing more than to sweep the Rays and show them who’s boss, there will be plenty of time for that in October.  We’re going to have a good run.

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Well. That was certainly an interesting game, to say the least. We won, 7-1, completing a three-game sweep of the Rays to put us further in first place. Jon Lester pitched an absolute gem through just over six innings, allowing one run on eight hits, striking out five, and walking none. The two relievers, Timlin and Aardsma, combined to allow one hit and issue four strikeouts and three walks. Our pitching is solid, and our bullpen has obviously settled down. To win with a six-run lead, we used just three pitchers to Tampa Bay’s six.

Besides great pitching, last night’s game featured some lively offense (Ramirez crushed a three-run shot), some fancy footwork (a stolen base by Lugo), and some injuries (Ellsbury, after spraining his right wrist, is listed as day-to-day, and Ramirez left the game with a sore hamstring).

Oh, and one other thing. A bench-clearing brawl. Apparently, Rays pitcher James Shields was annoyed that Crisp executed an aggressive slide into second base the night before. So, Shields decided to hit him with a pitch. (Commendably, he didn’t pitch at Crisp’s head. He hit him in the thigh instead.) Crisp charged the mound, Shields tried to hit but missed, Crisp tried to hit but basically missed, and Crisp was then tackled by Navarro, Gomes, and Crawford, the latter two of whom executed shots at Crisp that were decidedly and obviously cheap.

Because Crisp had been thrown out, Tito had to put Youkilis in right field. Kevin Youkilis. First baseman. In right field.

As if that wasn’t enough, Youk and Manny started getting into it in the dugout in the fourth inning. But this isn’t something that concerns me. Teammates constantly interact in close quarters. They’re like brothers, and brothers fight. Dustin Pedroia said it best:

We’re around each other a lot, but we love each other. We’re a team. We’ll be fine.

And I completely agree. This is not a faint-hearted team we have here. This is Boston. These are the defending champion dirt dogs. And the clubhouse is designed to weather tensions like this. Why do you think this team, with its share of “rockstars” and big personalities, is succeeding? Because the chemistry is and has always been there. Not something to worry about, folks. It happens.

As for the brawl at large, that happens, too. Happens across the league all the time. In the sixth inning on Wednesday, Crisp stole second and injured his left thumb on the slide when it collided with Jason Bartlett’s knee. In the eighth, Crisp tried to steal second again and jostled Akinori Iwamura with his forearm. He was caught stealing. Joe Madden made a pitching change and shouted at Crisp. Crisp shouted back. Apparently, their business was unfinished.

Brawls will occur in baseball. And exchanges between teammates will occur in baseball. It happens in every other sport. Watch a football training camp session or a preseason hockey practice and just try to get through it without seeing a fight. It’s impossible. Youk and Ramirez have a great relationship. They even trained together in Arizona in the offseason.

The moral of the story? Brawls between teams and teammates will occur, and if they occur to any team, they’ll occur to the Red Sox. Being a dirt dog and getting your uniform dirty also involves answering challenges, both inside and outside the clubhouse. If there’s anything to worry about, it’s the injury situation. And I wouldn’t even worry about that, because we’ve got Casey and Cora and Cash, not to mention A-grade minor leaguers on whom you can depend to bring their A-game (because they’re talented ballplayers and they’ll want to prove their abilities at the Major League level). And many of these minor leaguers have played with us before.

I’ve never seen a team as deep and as prepared to confront baseball’s worst disasters as this Red Sox team. We have Theo Epstein to thank for that, and this is just another example of the man’s insight and genius. We’ve got a solution to every problem, a qualified backup for every position, an answering run to every opposing run scored. The proof is in the 2006 crash and burn. We finished the ’06 season in third because we were injury-ridden without the depth of the ’08 roster. If any roster can come out of this situation unscathed, it’s Boston’s. Believe that.

Coco Crisp, 6/5/2008

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